As bubbly as champagne and delectable as wedding cake, Once and for All, Sarah Dessen’s thirteenth novel, is set in the world of wedding planning, where crises are routine.
Louna, daughter of famed wedding planner Natalie Barrett, has seen every sort of wedding: on the beach, at historic mansions, in fancy hotels and clubs. Perhaps that’s why she’s cynical about happily-ever-after endings, especially since her own first love ended tragically. When Louna meets charming, happy-go-lucky serial dater Ambrose, she holds him at arm’s length. But Ambrose isn’t about to be discouraged, now that he’s met the one girl he really wants.
Solid 3.5 but definitely not a 4 stars, which makes me really sad because I usually love Sarah Dessen’s books.
Usually Dessen’s books focus on the cute love story and I went in expecting that. This one, as all Dessen’s book did have a love story but the book focused a lot more on Louna’s personal growth than on the love story factor. I can totally handle that but even then, the book fell short somehow.
The book goes back and forth between present day and a year earlier when Louna had her first big love, Ethan. Louna’s mom is a wedding planner with her best friend William, and they’re both cynics – Louna following close behind. As part of the wedding business in comes Ambrose.
The story had potential, so much potential but first, I don’t think the Ambrose arch was explored well enough or given the time it needed. The bet between Louna and Ambrose again, had potential, but it was barely explored, mentioned here and there, but nothing solid.
And then, Ethan. UGH. One word – Instalove. Sarah Dessen, you’re better than that. This part of the story (which was a really important one) could have been so much better, been given the proper weight and still kept all of the “one perfect night / sunrise on the beach” adorableness without it being so instant. I get why Ethan had to be from an area so far away for the story to work but they could’ve seen each other more than that one night in order for their love story not to be so instalove.
Then the ending, when Louna goes through her personal growth and comes to term with what we’ve all known all along in this book, boom, it ends. It felt abrupt and like there was more to be said about Louna and Ambrose.
But I still can’t hate this book, or even call it just okay. In the end I did like it because even with the instalove, Ethan was a good story and so was Ambrose. I just feel like the whole book had a lot of potential left unexplored. A rare occasion when I think the book could’ve been better by adding pages instead of taking away.